The Law Office of Michael P. Downing, P.C.

Family Law

Get An Experienced Divorce Lawyer On Your Side. Get a free case evaluation to understand your situation better and address some of your initial questions and concerns. Getting divorced can be hard and stressful. Get the answers you need to protect your rights and move forward. Call Mike and learn about your options.

Divorce & Mediation

If you are seeking information about divorce, you are undoubtedly already facing troubling times and difficult decisions. One way to regain control of your life and think about your future is to gain as much knowledge and insight as possible about all aspects of a divorce. It can be challenging to think about the future. It can be hard to look beyond the turmoil and stress you are feeling right now. However, it is essential to remember these decisions are about your future. Every decision you make now will have a long-term impact. That is why it is so crucial to make the right decisions.

Mike Downing is here to guide you through the divorce process and help you make decisions that are right for you. How is that done? First, he will take the time to get to know you and your situation and assess your goals. Each individual is unique, and the guidance provided to you must be equally unique.

Child Custody, Visitation, and Child Support

When the Probate and Family Court considers a divorce case, it also decides on custody, visitation, and child support if there are children involved. In addition to legally ending your marriage, the court looks at other issues which need to be decided before the divorce is finalized. These issues may also include supporting children, visitation with the children, division of assets (for example, pensions, 401K’s, bank accounts or stocks), alimony (or support for the spouse), division of personal property (for example, car, real estate, jewelry, or furniture), deciding who gets to live in the marital home, division of debts (for example, credit cards), possible name change, health insurance issues, etc. In Massachusetts & New Hampshire, the property and debt issues are typically settled between the parties by a signed Marital Settlement Agreement, or the property award is ordered and decreed by the Family Court within the Judgment of Divorce.

Alimony & Property Distribution

When the parties cannot reach a settlement, the Family Court will take certain steps to divide the assets. First, it will go through a discovery process to classify which property and debt are to be considered marital. A monetary value on the marital property and debt will then be assigned. Last, it will distribute the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is deemed by the Family Court to be fair.

Alimony, also known as spousal support, may or may not be required as part of an overall divorce settlement. In 2012, Massachusetts enacted the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which provides specific guidelines for the amount and duration of alimony depending upon the length of the marriage and the age of retirement for the paying spouse. The Alimony Reform Act changed how parties negotiated their marital separation agreements and resulted in modifications and litigation for existing obligations.

The recent Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 complicated matters somewhat by drastically changing tax law for alimony payments. For divorce decrees dated Jan. 1, 2019, or later, alimony payments are no longer deductible for the payer, and the payee may not pay taxes on the payments received. Many couples are discovering that they need the help of tax experts to review their situation. As you can see, changes in the law can significantly affect your divorce decree or negotiated settlement. As your attorney, Mike can evaluate your situation and recommend the right course of action for you.

Divorce Modification & Contempt Actions

When a divorce is finalized, a divorce decree outlines essential information about the Court’s decision. A divorce decree is an enforceable order by the Court that both parties are legally mandated to follow, and sometimes problems can arise after it has been issued. Items outlined can include payment of child support or spousal support, a transfer of property, or specific visitation schedules. Unfortunately, too often, parties neglect or elect to ignore the outlined orders, and in these situations, a contempt or a modification request can be filed.

A contempt filing is used when a court order is not being followed. A contempt action can be filed in regard to both parenting and financial orders. If the contempt filing is successful, the consequences can be quite serious, including being found in contempt, ordered to pay the other person’s attorney fees and costs incurred, or having support payable by wage assignment or through the State.

A modification filing is used when a person wants to change a court order that was previously entered. In general, you must show that you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances to change an existing order. Like a contempt action, a modification motion can be filed in regard to temporary orders and some final orders. Not all final orders can be modified. For example, a final property division cannot be changed except in extraordinary, very limited circumstances. A modification can be filed relative to child support, alimony, or other financial orders. For example, if you lose your job or your income decreases. A modification can also be filed if you want to change your parenting orders.

If your spouse or former spouse is not complying with a court order and you need it enforced, or if there is an order that you need to change, Attorney Downing will review your existing order and advise you on the legal steps you should take to protect your interests.

Limited Assistance Representation

Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) allows an attorney to assist a self-represented client with specific issues on a limited basis. We prepare documents for clients to file on their own, review settlement proposals from opposing parties and/or their lawyers, meet with clients prior to mediation or other court appearances, advise them on the topics to discuss during their mediation sessions, review proposed mediated agreements, etc. This allows clients to have representation when needed and to have more control over how and when they utilize the services of an attorney. This type of limited representation, hourly billed or flat-fee billed, permits the attorney to withdraw representation after completing agreed-upon services. The LAR also benefits the client and attorney when they can control their involvement in a case. Rather than making a costly open-ended commitment where payment is questionable, attorneys have the opportunity to represent previously unrepresented clients.

Although the attorney does not fully participate, the attorney owes the client the same duties of loyalty, competence, and confidentiality for the limited representation as he would under full-service representation. The attorney must also review the limitations of the legal assistance with the client, for example, in a written description. Litigants involved in cases of child support and custody, paternity, divorce, and other family law matters can get partial representation by a qualified lawyer who has signed up with that court. Limited Assistance Representation is available in the Probate and Family Court for the benefit of low and moderate-income clients who cannot afford the cost of full representation service. The incorporation of LAR has provided legal assistance to a substantial population of pro se litigants appearing in Massachusetts state trial courts and should help speed up the legal process.

Attorney Downing will accept LAR cases, with a lower fee, whereas many attorneys will not. This fairly new type of attorney-client business model can be far more effective to the client and far less profitable to the law firm. This is why many larger firms with high-cost rents and many salaried attorneys will not take LAR cases. Call Mike and see if this is an option that would work for you.

About Michael P. Downing

Attorney Downing developed his passion for being a family law attorney when he endured the hardship of divorce himself in 2008. Mike often claims, “I have become the divorce attorney that I wish I had when I went through such an awful experience.” Mike’s law firm specializes in contested and uncontested divorces, child custody, child support, alimony matters, and modifications and contempt actions in the Probate and Family Courts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

More recently, Attorney Downing has expanded the focus of his practice to include criminal defense work as well. These legal matters range from OUI, assault & battery to harassment and larceny cases and other criminal matters where the District Court has jurisdiction.

In prior careers, spanning over 30 years, Mike has worked in law enforcement (corrections & police work) and the mortgage banking industry. Mike received his bachelor’s degree from Western Connecticut State University in 1997 and then moved on to earn his Juris Doctorate from the Massachusetts School of Law, where he teaches Legal Research & Writing as an Adjunct Professor.

Mike enjoys Atkinson, New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife Anne and their four sons. Mike credits his happiness and success to his steadfast commitment to family and his ‘no quit’ mentality. He brings this same energy and passion into his law practice daily, as he zealously advocates for his clients.

Contact Us about Your Case

If you have a legal concern that you would like our help with, reach out to us. We will respond to you shortly.

Mike Downing Divorce Attorney, Divorce Lawyer, Serving Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mike Downing is reasonable and affordable and offers community-based legal services, with a primary focus on Family Law including divorce, paternity, child support, parenting plan modification actions, and contempt actions. Attorney Downing also specializes in Criminal Law including Hit and Run and Felony charges in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, DUI: Driving Without a License or Insurance, Reckless Driving and Racing, Assault & Battery and Aggravated Assault and Battery. Mike works with a variety of client-based needs, including those who seek Limited Assistance Representation (LAR), Flat-Fee consultation and Low-Income Fee Clients, without the typical requirement for a very large retainer to secure his services. Mike is available most days and evenings, including weekends, to take your call and answer your questions.

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